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How Young Youth Pastors Can Gain Street Cred With Older Church Leaders

(pic of the young lego leader is brought to you by Dunechaser)

1 Timothy 4.12:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
I have learned that the young youth worker must not only accept but address this gaining-credibility issue. It took me a while to embrace the idea that I am a young leader.  A young youth pastor in the church world will always be critiqued for being “young” and “inexperienced”.
Bottom line:  in the church world wisdom, age, maturity and experience are a big deal.  Once you embraced your “youngness”, you will be way more open to learning how to gain credibility and trust in the church.

So who can address this credibility issue?

My boy: Aristotle. No person on the planet has spent as much time as Aristotle contemplating the idea of credibility. Aristotle defines credibility as ethos.

Aristotle argues there are three components of ethos:
intelligence (mental habits);
virtue (moral habits);
good will (emotional habits).

(1)  Intelligence.
 What the older generation wants to know is that the young youth worker is competent. Essentially, do young leaders have the knowledge to figure out how to lead a youth ministry theologically and practically?
How to gain intelligence:

Read. This is how I delegate my reading: 70% Christian (Bible, commentaries, theology books, ministry blogs) and 30% secular (adolescent research, New York Times, leadership resources). I also love reading biographies about the dead guys. There is so much to be learned from the guys who went before us.

Listen. Shut your mouth and listen. Listen and learn from other perspectives before giving your two cents. Spend time with others in your community who are way smarter than you and ask them questions about their success.

Education. I think it is huge if youth pastors are seminary trained and have a four-year degree in business. A business degree teaches you how to manage people, and a seminary education will teach you how to think theologically. If your church is willing to pay for an education, do it.

Go to conferences. Youth ministry conferences will teach you the how-to’s and force you to be around experienced and educated youth pastors.

(2)  Virtue. The older generation wants to know if you have a strong moral compass in order to make it in ministry without burning or flaking out. One of the top reasons youth pastors don’t make it is moral failure. Character is everything. Character includes such things as self-discipline, modesty, teamwork, integrity, purity, work ethic, loyalty, honesty, courage, tenacity, intelligence, consideration for others, and determination.

Study Scripture on character. Let Scripture transform your character. Be patient, humble, and respectful toward authority (Matthew 25, Luke 8, 2 Corinthians 5, Ephesians 4, and 2 Corinthians 4).

Find older leaders to mentor you. The goal is to illustrate the Paul and young Timothy relationship (1 Timothy 4:12). Ask older and wiser adults to speak into your life. Surround yourself with older adults who have successfully managed work, health, marriage, raising kids, money, and ministry.

(3)  Good Will. Having good will means having a good work ethic. The older generation believes high productivity is associated with credibility. The goal is to be known as the church staff member who will always get it done and is trustworthy. Suggestions on how to demonstrate a great work ethic:
–  Work really hard, especially in the small and insignificant tasks.
–  Show up early.
–  Return every phone call and email.
–  Get excited and think positive when you work.
–  Set goals and deadlines.
–  Volunteer for the tough assignments no one else wants.
–  Every day write down the top three to four tasks you need to get done that day.
–  Don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking increases your chances of losing focus.Gaining credibility in the church takes time.

Don’t feel discouraged when you are criticized for being young, idealistic, inexperienced, or passionate. Aristotle knew what he was talking about. Therefore, I encourage you to consider adopting Aristotle’s approach.

You can read this post over at the Slant 33 blog too.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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One comment

  1. Wise words! Too many times I have seen the credibility of wonderful and faithful colleagues in ministry questioned because of unprofessional actions or words. Churches (and parents) entrust their teens to us. We need to rise to the high calling.

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